In this short video, Michael gives some tips on how to get the most out of your time, energy, and focus.
What’s Important About Time, Energy, And Focus?
Your time, energy, and focus are not limitless. All of them will run out at some stage, so it makes sense to use them wisely to get the most from these limited resources. This is the reason planning and getting organised pay dividends.
Discovery Phase: Before we start
Any plan is wasted if we don’t start out being clear about the following four areas:
(We’ve covered these previously.)
- Our direction – where do we want to be in the long term?
- Simple milestones along the way, to check on progress
- Key focus areas, which lead to tasks to work on now
- Our key development areas – the important skills and attributes we need to reach our end goals more eas
Getting organised is not hard, but requires a certain amount of ambition, courage, honesty and time and persistence. It’s potentially a lifetime project, so the sooner we start the better.
I’ve found that for many, the best approach is to start really small, choose a piece that we’re attracted to, work on it until we’ve installed it as a habit, and then add the next piece.
We have to find what works for us as individuals.
After a while we’ll have built up up momentum and confidence. That’s a good time to go back and start with a blank sheet and design how we approach each day from scratch, building in the elements we’ve found work for us.
1) Set Priorities
We can’t manage our time, energy, and focus until we know what’s important to us. That’s the reason our discovery phase is so useful.
I’ve found a useful next step is to set the 3 priorities for the next 12 months, period (normally 3 months), month, week and day. This means that I know my key priorities at the start of every day. I might change them due to life events, but that’s a conscious choice.
It’s a great discipline to quickly review these every day. When I started I found it seemed theoretical, however when it became a habit it suddenly made total sense.
2) Improve our Energy and Focus.
For this article I’m going to assume we can’t create time, however we can invest in activities that improve our energy and focus. These might include exercise, rest and relaxation periods, meditation and hobbies, and what and when we eat.
If they’re important to us, include them in our daily routines. They’ll improve our effectiveness.
3) Daily Routines
Establishing routines and starting new tasks takes energy, maintaining them much less so. Therefore the art is to develop a number of key routines that support us. I’m particularly in favour of clarifying priorities, morning and evening questions, mentally rehearsing how we want the day to go, and whatever exercise, eating, relaxation and focus routines work for us as individuals.
Once established they take very little time and energy, giving us the freedom to use the bulk of our time, energy and focus on whatever is important at the time.
4) Let our Calender take the strain. Hotspots and timeboxing.
All hours are not the same. There are times during the day when we can handle difficult tasks. There are times that we can’t. In fact there are some times during the day when we’re better not working at all. So it’s useful to identify when we’re our most effective and ensure we use that time for those few items that are important, urgent and difficult. If we have to have a meeting at a time we’re not at out best, rehearse and prepare an agenda/checklist when we are at our best.
It’s worthwhile timeboxing key tasks by giving them sufficient time, and time starving less key tasks by restricting the time we give them. Within reason, whatever we’ve done in than restricted time is good enough.
5) Key Question Stack
Great questions lead our thinking and our emotions, these in turn lead our behaviour. It’s worth maintaining a list of great questions for the key situations that we’re likely to find ourselves in.
- What are we going to start doing / do more of?
- What are we going to protect (or ensure, maintain)?
- What are we going to accept? (You may not like it, but you have to do it.)
- What are we going to stop doing? Delegate? Outsource?
- Am being productive or just active?
- Is this worth doing? Am I prepared to invest the time and energy to make an appreciable positive difference?
- What are our 3 priority outcomes for the next 12 months?
- What are our 3 priority outcomes for the next period?
- What are our 3 priority outcomes for the next month?
- What are our 3 priority outcomes for the next week?
- What are our 3 priority outcomes for today?
- Where are we going? This is where I see us going, where do you think we’re going?
- Where are you going? This is where I see your part of the business going. Where do you see it going?
- What are you going well? This is what I see you doing well. What do you see yourself doing well?
- Suggestions for improvement. If I was you these are one or two things I’d start doing/build on (Feedforward)? What do you think you could improve?
- How can I help?
- What suggestions do you have for me?
7) Start, occasionally sprint and always finish
- Set start and finish times
- Start fresh. If the start isn’t good – it’s OK to start again!
- Sprints can be very effective
- Always finish and have a routine to finish (tidy up?). Close any active loops.
8) Designing our Environment
We know the benefit of ensuring we have people around us that keep us energised, sometimes creative, sometimes focused and on track. The environment we work in can have the same impact – from whether our space is tidy, the colour on the walls, the pictures and reminders we have – can either hold us back or help us leap forward.
Having written affirmations, that are displayed so they catch our attention and are crafted in the right way, can also help us keep on track.
As much as we can, choose the people we work with AND the environment we work best in.
Simply Start. The Investment Will Be Worth it.
When we start to try to get organised, the challenge ahead of us can appear so daunting, the demands upon our time and attention so pressing, that we may feel that we’re never going to have the time or the energy to start. It’s another project to take up our time!
That’s why the first step is to start simple. Start by setting your intention to have a productive day, and think of just three things you want to achieve.
If these have to change during the course of the day, that doesn’t matter as long as you choose to change them, rather than them getting drowned out by other distractions.
At the end of the day, review how it went, learn the lessons the day gave you, and then let it go so you can start afresh tomorrow.
The investment will be worth it.
Some Useful Resources:
Getting Results the Agile Way by J.D. Meier
The 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferris
Triggers by Marshall Goldsmith
When, The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing by Daniel H. Pink
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